Ginger May came to Fircroft in 2021 and attended the Free Thinking course – a 10 week, part time residential course, for people from new communities with lived experience.

How our Free Thinking course helped Ginger May

Ginger May wanted to enhance her life through education and when she heard about Fircroft’s Free Thinking course from the Red Cross, she applied straight away.  When she arrived at the college she says she had lost hope.  She came out of a bad situation in March 2020 when she was rescued by authorities from a place where she was being exploited and abused and had been looking for an opportunity to educate herself further, ever since.  Ginger May says she loved the Free Thinking course – every bit of it.  She had lost confidence and felt her abilities and intelligence was limited, largely because of her recent experience.  At the college she felt she could find peace away from what is still a chaotic home life. One of the best things about the Free Thinking course was that through structured learning, she found she had much in common with the other students.  She says “Learning new things and meeting new people was something nice and therapeutic. It enabled us to come to terms with our trauma together, in a safe environment and it has given me new hope and dreams for the future”.

Ginger May’s Story

Before Ginger May came to the UK, she was working behind a counter at a bank in a responsible job handling money and processing large financial transactions.  Like many young people, she had aspirations to explore different life opportunities and decided to leave Africa and come to England. Once here, she was not initially able to find work and was offered somewhere to stay by a church.  All her meals were paid for as well as accommodation being provided, in return for administration work.  Ginger felt this was a great opportunity – she has administrative skills and experience, she needed somewhere to stay and this was a church, where she felt she would be safe and surrounded by friendly people, keen to help her to progress and thrive in a new country. 

Ginger May’s job was typing books to be sold to the congregation.  It was strongly recommended by the church that its followers buy the books to fully understand the religion and to help them spiritually with their everyday lives.  Many religions sell books to promote their faith and Ginger May felt this was a worthy job to do, in return for her bed and board and she was happy to show her gratitude to these people who had taken her in.  Ginger May found herself working long hours, staying up late at night typing the books out and getting very little sleep sometimes.  The people at the church got annoyed with her and frustrated if she did not produce the books on time to be sold to the congregation and Ginger May felt guilty that she was not working hard enough. 

Not having any money, Ginger May was not able to buy anything for herself or socialise in any way but she was grateful she had a bed for the night and food.  The people at the church started getting more angry with Ginger May when they felt she was being too slow creating the books and would put more pressure on her to the point where she became afraid of them sometimes and wanted to leave.  They also forced her to engage in illegal activities. But how could she leave with no money and no contacts in the UK to help her? 

Someone who had been at the church recognised that Ginger May might be living in a dangerous situation and they managed to speak to her.  The police and other organisations rescued her last year and have helped her to now live a better life away from the people who controlled her.  The future is becoming more and more positive for Ginger May now as she works on realising her dreams.

Ginger May’s Future Plans

Ginger May now has ambitions to help other people from new communities who have been exploited in some way and to raise awareness of what modern slavery is.  In 2016 it was reported by the Global Slavery Index, that there were an estimated 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK. Five years on and a global pandemic, one can only imagine the figure is much higher. Ginger May is in touch with a number of organisations that work with people with lived experienced and she is currently gathering recipes from people who have been affected by modern slavery, with a view to creating cookery classes where people can come together, share stories and learn about new cultures.